December 2, 1998
Fairlington Historic District
60th Anniversary Events
March 29, 1999
Questions and Answers
Around 1770, Carlyle established a plantation where a large white frame house known as "Morven" was constructed. Its site is in North Fairlington at the end of 31st Street just before Route 7.
In 1792, Carlyle Whiting, the owner of Morven and a descendant of Colonel Carlyle, wrote Washington warning him that trespassers were stealing wood from their property.
All of South and North Fairlington north of Columbus Street lies within that original set aside. Markers were set along the entire border of the newly established federal enclave in both Maryland and Virginia. One such marker survives today and can be seen on the southern boundary of South Fairlington on Route 7, near the South Wakefield Street Intersection across from the Fairlington Presbyterian Church.
Fort Reynolds was built in 1861 next door to the present site of North Fairlington and was constructed to safeguard the City of Washington from being overrun by Confederate armies who had been victorious in the first Battle of Bull Run. To protect Fort Reynolds from Confederate attack from positions on Seminary Ridge, Battery Garesche, a smaller artillery fortification was built in 1863 at today's intersection of South Abingdon Street and 30th Road. Historic markers show the locations and Civil War significance of these two forts.
Fairlington is a nationally significant example of large-scale, publicly financed defense housing and by far the largest project financed by the Defense Homes Corporation (DHC). Designed by Kenneth Franzheim and associate architect, Alan Mills, the project was intended to remain a permanent part of the community after the war's end. Because of good planning in site selection and project design, this goal was realized.
Franzheim designed the New York Trust Company building in New York and the Gulf Building and the City Auditorium in Houston, as well as a number of other buildings and airports. He received the American Institute of Architects Award of Merit in Commercial Architecture for Foley's Department Store in Houston. Notable among Alan B. Mills' achievements are the designs of the east and west wings of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and its Museum of American History. Both Franzheim and Mills collaborated on two other DHC apartment projects -- McLean Gardens and Naylor Gardens -- both completed in 1943 and located in Washington, DC.
Thompson-Starrett, the builder of Fairlington Villages, managed to obtain quality materials, despite the government's management of scarce wartime resources. Construction of Fairlington began in 1942, and in May 1943, the first 387 families moved in and by year's end, 2,415 apartments were available for occupancy. When the last of the 3,439 apartments were completed in August 1944, the project was 100 percent occupied and remained that way for years to come. DHC managed Fairlington until its sale to private owners in 1947. Fairlington remained a rental community until 1972-77, when the units were renovated and sold as condominiums.
In his chapter on the "Strains of the New," Brinkley in writing about DHC points to Fairlington as one of DHC's most ambitious developments and describes what life was like in the summer of 1943 for Fairlington residents, including their problems, such as lack of public transportation, poor roads and no shopping facilities. Brinkley ends with the statement, "Fairlington at least had sturdy, well-designed housing (most of it still standing today and now expensive townhouses and condominiums)."
For over a half century of Fairlington's existence as a community, residents have shown a keen interest in documenting Fairlington's history and in reporting community information on a range of civic and recreational activities. Today, Fairlington has several monthly newsletters (The All-Fairlington Bulletin, the North Fairlington News and monthly newsletters published by the individual South Fairlington Villages.).